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World Council of Churches slams Israel

Various | 23.05.2006 05:13 | Repression | World

The Council has simply reinforced what countless groups - and the UN - have stated for years now. Now that we understand who's responsible, perhaps we can begin acting accordingly, and end this War once and for all.

World Council of Churches slams Israel

Israel bears the burden of responsibility for the present crisis in the Middle East, the World Council of Churches has announced, following a meeting of its Executive Committee in Geneva from May 16-19.

The Christian Left's leading ecumenical organization stated Israel's actions towards the Palestinians "cannot be justified morally, legally or even politically."

The failure "to comply with international law" had "pushed the situation on the ground to a point of no return," they concluded.

The WCC condemned the killing of innocent civilians by "both sides" in the conflict and called for the Palestinians to "maintain the existing one-party cease-fire toward Israel" and asked Israel to base its security on "the equitable negotiation of final borders" with its neighbors.

However, the present disparities between Israel and Palestine were "appalling," the WCC said.

"One side is positioning itself to unilaterally establish final borders on territory that belongs to the other side; the other side is increasingly confined to the scattered enclaves that remain. On one side there is control of more and more land and water; on the other there are more and more families deprived of land and livelihoods.

On one side as many people as possible are being housed on occupied land; on the other side the toll mounts of refugees without homes or land. One side controls Jerusalem, a city shared by two peoples and three world religions; the other-Muslim and Christian-watches its demographic, commercial and religious presence wither in Jerusalem," the WCC said.

The WCC claimed a double standard was at work in the international community that favored Israel, saying, "The side set to keep its unlawful gains is garnering support from part of the international community. The side that, despairing at those unlawful gains, used legitimate elections to choose new leaders is being isolated and punished."

"Democracy must be protected where it is taking root," the WCC said, calling for a relaxation of American, British and EU sanctions against Hamas. "Peace must come soon or it may not come to either people for a long time," they concluded.

The WCC's Executive Committee called upon its 340 member churches in over 100 countries representing approximately 550 million Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant Christians to "share solidarity with people on both sides of the conflict," and to "use legitimate forms of pressure to promote a just peace and to end unlawful activities by Israelis or Palestinians."

It also asked its members to "find constructive ways to address threats experienced among the Jewish people, including the nature, prevalence and impact of racism in local, national and international contexts."

In March 2005, the WCC urged its member churches give "serious consideration" to pulling investments out of Israel and endorsed the 2004 decision by the Presbyterian Church of the United States to seek "phased selective divestment" from Israel. "This [Presbyterian] action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith and calls members to do the things that make for peace," the WCC said.

The Presbyterian Church will revisit its 2004 divestment decision next month at its 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama, in response to criticism that the divestment call was one-sided and ill-informed.

Ethnic Cleansing and the "Moral Instinct"
How the West and free press underwrote Israel's ethnic cleansing
by Edward Herman

The origin of the Palestine- Israeli conflict

by Published By Jews For Justice In The Middle East
April 05, 2002

As the periodic bloodshed continues in the Middle East, the search for an equitable solution must come to grips with the root cause of the conflict. The conventional wisdom is that, even if both sides are at fault, the Palestinians are irrational "terrorists"who have no point of view worth listening to. Our position, however, is that the Palestinians have a real grievance: their homeland for over a thousand years was taken, without their consent and mostly by force, during the creation of the state of Israel. And all subsequent crimes- on both sides- inevitably follow from this original injustice. This paper outlines the history of Palestine to show how this process occurred and what a moral solution to the region’s problems should consist of. If you care about the people of the Middle East, Jewish and Arab, you owe it to yourself to read this account of the other side of the historical record.



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How much longer should the United States underwrite the Israeli occupation?

23.05.2006 17:04

Time to Question 39 Years of Failed Israeli Occupation
How much longer should the United States underwrite the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories?

By Kevin Zeese

The Congress is currently considering legislation that will make it impossible to have a balanced negotiation for peace between Israel and Palestine and very difficult to provide humanitarian aid if the crisis in the Palestinian Territories worsens.

In the past the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and Israel's efforts “to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people” as front-line Israel soldiers who refuse to participate in the occupation describe it, was something that was tangential to U.S. interests. The usefulness of Israel as a military ally in the oil-rich region was more important than ending the occupation of Palestine. Alexander Haig described Israel as our “unsinkable air craft carrier.” But now, the one-sided “special relationship” of the United States with Israel is a root cause of terrorism against the United States.

Rather than rushing to pass the Anti-Palestinian Terrorism Act of 2006, it is the time for the United States to re-evaluate the relationship with Israel. Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, has been receiving 25% to 30% of U.S. foreign aid for decades. This tiny country has been receiving as much foreign assistance as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Carribean combined. This funding has made the United States taxpayer the underwriter of the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

And, this occupation is not just illegal – it is brutal. The killing of civilians, the assassination of political leaders, the destruction of fruit orchards, the plowing of homes, routine mass searches of the population, the separation of Palestinians from water supplies, the separation of farmers from their fields and the division of towns with the security wall – all combine to make this 39 year occupation among the harshest in the world. It is so ugly that hard line pro-Israel forces work hard to prevent the U.S. taxpayer from knowing what they are funding, e.g. the recent closing of a play about the death of Rachel Corrie – a U.S. citizen murdered by Israel while trying to block the destruction of Palestinian homes.

Sadly, this occupation is not only 'starving and humiliating' an entire people it is making Israel weaker and less secure. The Israeli economy was the major political issue in the most recent election with poverty on the rise in Israel. Israel is more politically isolated in the world community, anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout the world and Israelis are less secure. If the occupation was successful there would not be a need to build the so-called 'security wall' that is currently under construction. If Israel were secure it would not be advocating for a dangerous military strike against Iran.

The bill being considered in Congress ignores all the atrocities of the military occupation and puts the U.S. further on the side of the occupier – Israel. The law would restrict U.S. humanitarian aid; designate Palestinian territory as a “terrorist sanctuary” thereby triggering restrictions on U.S. exports; prohibit official Palestinian diplomacy or representation in the United States in a way counter-productive to promoting dialogue and negotiation toward a just peace; reduce U.S. dues to the United Nations because some of its bodies advocate for Palestinian human rights; and deny Palestinians the ability to receive assistance through international financial institutions.

There has been intense lobbying and arm twisting by the hard right Israeli lobby AIPAC for this legislation. But some in Congress are showing some backbone. The U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation reports:

* Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) has banned AIPAC from her office until it apologizes for equating her committee vote against HR4681 to “support for terrorists.” In a letter to AIPAC, Rep. McCollum states that “During my nineteen years serving in elected office, including the past five years as a Member of Congress, never has my name and reputation been maligned or smeared as it was last week by a representative of AIPAC.”

* Reps. David Price (D-NC-4), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Ray LaHood (R-IL-18), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) issued a Dear Colleague letter against HR4681. These Representatives criticized the bill on the grounds that it “would prohibit all assistance to the Palestinian people, other than narrowly-defined categories of humanitarian aid (excluding, for example, education and economic development).”

* Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA-7) entered a scathing critique of HR4681 in the Congressional Record in which he asked “And what can we expect if we turn our backs on the real and growing humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people? It doesn't make sense to put restrictions on funding the NGOs that provide the Palestinian people with hospitals and schools. As a medical doctor, I am gravely concerned about the fate of millions of innocent Palestinians who rely on international aid for food, health care, and for developing their economy and businesses. Recent news reports say that international sanctions are preventing hospitals in Gaza from providing dialysis machines for patients, and they may not be able to supply immunizations to children. The World Health Organization sees a 'rapid decline of the public health system.....towards a possible collapse.' This bill will only make the already dire situation even worse. As a doctor I took an oath to heal. As a nation, we took an oath to lead. Allowing innocent Palestinians to go hungry, while denying them medical treatment cannot possibly correct injustice, or lead to peace.”

* Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) submitted an additional view to the House International Relations Committee report on HR4681, calling it "the wrong answer to a most difficult challenge."

We can only hope that more in Congress will say “NO” to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he is in Washington, DC and has the unusual opportunity to speak to a Joint Session of Congress. And, we can only hope that an open debate on whether the U.S. should continue to fund the illegal Israel occupation of Palestinian Territories can take place without labeling those who question Israel’s failed occupation anti-Semitic. Such name calling prevents the type of robust debate that is needed.

Why this extreme reaction to the beaten down Palestinian people? Because the Palestinians exercised their democratic rights and elected representatives of Hamas. Hamas has been demonized by Israel and many in the U.S. media despite the fact that it took a pledge against violence more than 18 months ago and has lived up to that promise. They have not committed acts of violence despite violence directed at the Palestinian people by Israel. Israel has demanded Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist – but Israel is a country without clear borders. What exactly would Hamas be recognizing?

Would it not be a better path toward peace if the Untied States encouraged Israel to negotiate with the elected representatives of the Palestinian people? Why not urge Israel to build on the positive pledge of non-violence rather than continue their efforts “to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate” the Palestinian people? Israel seems to want to negotiate with Washington, DC rather than with the Palestinians elected representatives. This is not the first time, in April 2004 Bush and Sharon exchanged letters that accepted Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory as a quid-pro-quo for the disengagement from Gaza. President Bush does not have the right to give up Palestinian land or negotiate for the Palestinian people.

Israel has complained that there is no one to negotiate with in the Palestinian Authority. This has been echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In fact, there is an elected representative of the Palestinian people. Rather than negotiating their borders with the United States, Israel should be required – as a condition of further foreign aid – to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority.

It is time to stop perpetuating the status quo of violence, military occupation, and human rights violations – which are not making Israel more secure, and is destroying the Palestinian people, destabilizing the Middle East and making the U.S. a target for terrorism. Instead it is a time to promote dialogue and a just, peaceful resolution to the conflict. Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and Americans of Jewish faith all agree – according to polls – that the solution to the violence of Israel-Palestine will come through a negotiated peace with two viable countries – Israel and Palestine – being formed.

It is time for the U.S., rather than increasing its foreign aid to Israel as is being requested, to tell Israel that the time for a peaceful resolution of the occupation is now. There has been too much violence caused by both sides of this dispute. Israel needs to know that the U.S. taxpayer will no longer underwrite the brutal military occupation of the Palestinian Territories and we can no longer afford the security risk presented by Israel's harsh treatment of Palestinians.

Kevin Zeese is Director of Democracy Rising and a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.

Kevin Zeese